Durban - A collective R52 million: that is how much eThekwini Municipality employees, including those at senior level, are in arrears with their municipal accounts.
At senior or executive management level alone, the amount is R2.3m.
A report for the month of June to the Municipal Public Accounts Committee showed that 3 140 employees were in arrears. This includes councillors who owe the municipality R1.2m.
The report showed that 61 of those owing were in management, senior or executive management, 193 were in management and 2 841 were in the other staff category.
More than R3m had been deducted from staff salaries to clear their debts.
“These deductions are however limited to 25% of net salary; staff also have an option to encash their leave to settle the account arrears; a list of staff in arrears is sent to the head of the unit on an ongoing basis,” the report said.
Parastatals and government departments, the report also showed, owed the municipality close to R1 billion.
A ratepayers’ organisation yesterday described the situation as “unacceptable”.
Ish Prahladh, of the eThekwini Ratepayers and Residents Association, was stunned by the latest revelations.
“That’s why our increases are so high. The heads of the people in charge must roll.”
He said those owing should not be treated with kid gloves, calling for garnishee orders on their salaries and for them to be subject to credit control measures that include cutting their services, as is done with other ratepayers.
ActionSA councillor Alan Beesley said they were concerned by both the large number of employees of the municipality who were in arrears with their municipal debts as well as the total amount outstanding.
“The number of employees in arrears is a large percentage of the municipal workforce and the amount owing is R52.3m, a significant amount.
“ActionSA does have sympathy for those employees that have a legitimate reason for falling into arrears,” said Beesley.
Beesley accused the City of treating parastatals with kid gloves.
“This is a significant amount and if the money was in the City’s coffers as it should have been, there would have been much-needed funds available to improve service delivery and maintain infrastructure.”
IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi said the City manager and the chief financial officer should deal with the situation.
“I don’t know why they are not recovering the money when these people are paid by the City, the issue of parastatals is that the governing party is ‘massaging’ its comrades, we have said if we cut services, they will all pay.
“They do this to people on the ground, why are they not doing it to them? We can recover a lot of money if they cut services. It cannot be that the cutting of services happens to regular people, but not to municipal staff and parastatals,” said Nkosi.
DA councillor Thabani Mthethwa said there was no political will to recover the outstanding money from government departments and parastatals that were defaulting.
“It cannot be allowed that members of the public have their services disconnected if they fail to pay, but the same policy doesn’t apply to government departments. Regarding City employees, the City manager must make sure that they comply, failing which he must account as the accounting officer,” he said.
Chairperson of the committee Thami Xuma said: “You can’t be an employee and then owe the municipality. We have been raising this issue but it seems there is no improvement. The management said their challenge was that when we call for garnishee orders, they can only deduct up to a certain portion of the salaries of the employees. These deductions are further complicated by the fact that the employees already have other debt.”
Provincial manager for South African Local Government Association (Salga), Sabelo Gwala, said Salga chairperson, councillor Thami Ntuli, had said during the Salga assembly on July 12 that debt collection must not be compromised.
“No one must be spared. Salga members were reminded that the government in KZN must support municipalities, not hinder them with unpaid debt. The City manager of eThekwini has Salga’s full support to cut off services from those who owe eThekwini.”
Lindiwe Khuzwayo, the City’s head of communications, had previously said that the municipality disconnects everyone who does not pay.
She said all those who owed on their accounts were subject to credit control procedures which includes all sanctions for non-payment, such as disconnections, redlining and final demand.
Councillors and staff members were further subject to salary deductions if their account was in arrears for more than three months.